Last night the Town of Ogema celebrated the Premier of the Canadian Heritage Minute commercial which was filmed in the community this past June.
The evening began with a series of brief videos that celebrated the lively community. Among its highlights was Ogema's Southern Prairie Railway, attracting an impressive 4,000 tourists every summer. Furthermore, visitors have the opportunity to explore the extraordinary Deep South Pioneer Museum, situated on a vast 10-acre property with a collection of 31 remarkable buildings. This museum houses not only fossils dating back millions of years but also ancient Aboriginal artifacts that span a history of 10,000 years. If that wasn’t enough, now the community is joining together to fundraise for the Grandstand, a restoration project with a target of $150,000.
The evening also highlighted the amazing accomplishments of Arleene Johnson-Noga who grew up five miles south of Ogema and played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Johnson-Noga began spring training in April 1945 and played three consecutive seasons from 1946 to 1948 and was considered the league’s best third base player, where she earned the title “Iron Lady” and was affectionately known as "Johnnie". She set a league record at third base with a fielding percentage of .928 having played all 112 league games. Later Johnson Noga was inducted into the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame, the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, and the Regina Sports Hall of Fame. She also served as a Technical Advisor on the Hollywood film set, A League of Their Own, starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis. Behind the scenes, Johnson Noga taught Rosie O’Donnell how to play shortstop and Madonna how to properly slide into third base. In 2004, the community of Ogema honoured the baseball star by dedicating the Grandstand as the Arleene Johnson-Noga Grandstand, the baseball legend passed away on March 14, 2017, at the age of 93.
Further into the ceremony, there were several donations towards the Grandstand Restoration Project. The Radius Credit Union donated $5000, the Town of Ogema presented by Mayor Carol Peterson donated an additional $5000 and the Regina-based production company Barbershop Films donated an unexpected $2500.
Mayor Carol Peterson shares her gratitude for the surprise donation, “It was so great to have them come to small town Saskatchewan to show their Heritage Minute. These are people from Toronto who came all this way to help us out and we really appreciate it, it means a lot to everybody here. We don’t get a lot of financial help outside, and it’s really nice to see that people appreciate what we have here.”
Jeremy Drummond, Producer with Barber Shop Films shares why the company chose to donate to the restoration project, “If you saw the generosity when we filmed out here, everybody came out, we had volunteers, we had sandwiches, we had access to all these amazing facilities, I thought that’s the least we could do, we just wanted to help restore the grandstand and say thank you in a meaningful way.”
Mary Struthers, volunteer with the Grandstand Restoration Project, shared they have raised an impressive $125,000, most of which was generated locally as they have not been successful in obtaining a Heritage Grant. The current target is $150,000, however, due to rising costs she explained the goal may need to expand.
The Mary “Bonnie” Baker commercial is set to be released in October 2023.
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